Physical abuse is real and it is far more common than many believe. It is also devastating and life-altering. And most importantly – it happens in silence. It remains invisible to the outside world, often until it is too late to fix anything. Whether you yourself or someone you know and care about, suffers from physical abuse in a relationship, there are a few things you must understand about it:
1. Physical abuse is more than just battering
Many victims of physical abuse, incomprehensible to those outside of this relationship, don’t realize that they’re in an abusive relationship. This is because we are taught to view physical abuse in a particular way, and if we don’t see that, we begin to doubt whether the abuser’s behavior constitutes as violence at all. But, being pushed aside, held down against a wall or a bed, “lightly” smacked on the head, dragged along, roughly tugged, or driven recklessly, these all are, in fact, physically abusive behaviors.
2. Physical abuse rarely comes alone
Physical violence is the most apparent form of abuse, but it rarely happens in a relationship where there is no emotional or verbal abuse as well. And any abuse from the person that we were expecting would treat us kindly and protect us from harm is a ruinous experience. But when we add physically aggressive behavior to the emotional torture and verbal insults in a “love” relationship, it becomes a living hell.
3. Physical abuse often develops gradually
And precisely emotional and verbal abuse can and often do present an eerie introduction to what is to become a highly toxic and even dangerous relationship. Not that psychological abuse can’t be lead the victim into a range of self-harming beliefs and behaviors, but physical abuse usually presents a dark culmination of such pathological connection. Not every emotionally abusive relationship reaches that point, but every physically abusive one was filled with demeaning and controlling behavior at the beginning. So, if your partner is constantly belittling you, causing you to feel guilty for his aggression and making you believe that you don’t deserve any better, be careful and watch for the signs. He might be on his way towards becoming physically violent as well.
4. It is extremely difficult to leave an abuser
Victims of abuse know this very well – it seems impossible to leave the aggressor. Regardless of how violent he may be at some moments, he is usually quite seductive and charming in the others. The abuse can happen with long periods of seemingly peaceful and quite happy days. But, unfortunately, once he crossed the line of raising his hand on you, it’s highly likely that he’ll do it again. Some do it in a few years, others never seem to stop, but it’s rare to see isolated occurring of physical violence that never happened again. Except when they don’t get a chance to repeat what they did.
5. Physical abuse has long-lasting consequences
A lot of research has been conducted to determine why abuse happens, and what it causes. Obviously, there are immediate physical consequences of being tossed around or beaten. But, these heal (even though they too can have severe and long-term consequences). In its extreme (which is not that rare), physically abusive relationships can end in death of the victims. But for those who do survive, being exposed to continuing violence in what should be a loving and safe place results in a number of psychological and physiological changes. Chronic headaches, high blood pressure, gynecological illnesses and digestive problems are just a few of the most common up shots for the victims of physical violence in a relationship. According to some studies, victims of domestic abuse are also more susceptive to developing cancer and other chronic and often terminal diseases. Adding to these ailments of the body, psychological damage that results from being in an abusive relationship is equal to the damage to war veterans. Victims of physical abuse (regardless of its duration, frequency and severity) are at higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or an addiction. And, since an abuse rarely comes without the victim becoming socially isolated, they are left without the protective role our friends and family play in our lives.
Going through physical abuse in a romantic relationship is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult experiences one can have. It is dangerous and has a potential of causing long-lasting negative consequences. Yet, as many other horrible encounters in our lives, this too can bear expansion and beauty if directed towards self-growth. This doesn’t need to be the thing that destroyed you. You survived, haven’t you?